There’s one contested primary among the four open State Board of Education seats. Peggy Propst and Cody LeBlanc are competing to be the Republican candidate for the new 8th Congressional District seat, which includes Adams and Weld counties.
The winner will face Rhonda Solis, a former Greeley-Evans school board member and community activist who is the sole Democratic nominee, in November.
The State Board of Education hires the education commissioner; oversees the state accountability system, teacher evaluation, and licensure; hears charter school appeals; implements education laws; and sets state standards.
Members are elected to represent each congressional district, as well as one new at-large seat. The board is growing from seven seats to nine due to redistricting. Read more about the other races here.
The primary is June 28.
Ballots have already been mailed. Find more voter information here.
Peggy Propst, 62, previously served on the State Board of Education as Peggy Littleton, representing Colorado Springs from 2004 to 2010. She did not seek re-election, instead serving as a county commissioner.
Propst also taught in the classroom and as a homeschooling mom, served on the boards of charter schools, and ran the state’s GEAR UP program, a federally funded program to prepare first-generation students for college. She recently left a position as western region director for an education technology company.
Last year, Propst moved into what is now the 8th District after marrying. She said local Republicans encouraged her to run. Her past service is part of her pitch: “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I can walk in there and do the job on Day One.”
Propst described her approach as the ABCs of education policy: accountability and accreditation, best practices, and choice and charters. She applauds the work the current board has done to improve reading instruction and said she would build on it by giving teachers more opportunities to learn best practices in teaching labs.
Propst lamented that Colorado abandoned its model standards for the Common Core and got rid of its cursive handwriting requirement.
“Our foundational documents for the United States are in cursive,” she said.
Propst wants schools to teach American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is fundamentally different than other countries, and leave what she terms “sexual issues” under the authority of parents.
“It is never appropriate for an educational institution to groom children or expose them to alternative lifestyles,” she wrote in a fundraising email. When asked in an interview if she was comparing teaching about LGBTQ issues to child abuse, she said grooming means adults other than parents trying to get children to adopt their values. She added that it’s similar to what happens to victims of sex trafficking, when adults start out kind and friendly and offer to keep secrets.
Proposed social studies standards that call on teachers to include the contributions of marginalized groups have the potential to divide, Propst said.
“We fought the Civil War because we had to, and hopefully we dealt with those things back then and said, ‘This a free country for everyone,’” she said.
Why does Propst think she’s the best person for the job?
“I don’t think there is anybody running who is more experienced,” she said. “My last 40 years have been spent focused on education, and I don’t think anybody holds a candle to that experience.”
Cody LeBlanc, 24, is a Weld Re-8 school board member. He owns a coffee shop in Fort Lupton and works for the local chamber of commerce. He traces his family back six generations to early homesteaders. He previously worked in constituent services for Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck.
LeBlanc was active with anti-abortion student groups in college and first ran for office because he was concerned a comprehensive sex education law passed in 2019 would require schools to treat abortion as a neutral option. He worked to expand Weld Re-8’s controversial topics policy to make it easier for parents to exempt students from certain lessons.
LeBlanc believes critical race theory “poses a grave danger.” Critical race theory is a set of ideas about how race shape law and society and is typically taught at the graduate level. The term has come to serve as a catch-all for progressive approaches to teaching history.
But when he brought a resolution opposing critical race theory, fellow board members rejected it, with one telling LeBlanc he was “creating chaos in our community,” the Clear Creek Courant reported.
“I think it was well worth having the conversation,” he said.
LeBlanc said he pushed for schools to reopen and drop mask requirements.
“I held community forums, gauging parent feedback on why parents were choosing online learning,” he said. “Many were choosing online because they didn’t want their child to wear a mask all day, and at the same time, they didn’t think their child was learning as much online.”
LeBlanc said he would be an advocate for local control. The State Board shouldn’t mandate what schools teach or what school improvement strategies to follow. If schools aren’t performing, local voters can replace the school board, he said.
At the same time, he said, schools need more money, especially to serve English learners.
“The needs of someone in Fort Lupton are very different from someone in Commerce City or Cherry Creek,” he said. “When you allow local boards to make those decisions, I believe the best form of government is the smallest and the one that is most accountable to our friends, family, and neighbors.”
Why does LeBlanc think he’s the best person for the job?
“Local experience matters,” he said. His school board service “brings a lot of experience and insight into what the department of education is doing to prevent students from reaching their full success.”
“I’ll never back down or sacrifice my principles,” he added. “I’m not a career politician. I’m 24 years old and I’m pissed off and I want to make sure the school system is fixed before my kids go into it.”
Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org.